Sarah Palin, Rewriting History

Sarah Palin, in the Vice Presidential debate:

Barack Obama and Senator Biden, you’ve said no to everything in trying to find a domestic solution to the energy crisis that we’re in. You even called drilling — safe, environmentally-friendly drilling offshore as raping the outer continental shelf.

Sara Palin, on Twitter:

Extreme Greenies:see now why we push”drill,baby,drill”of known reserves&promising finds in safe onshore places like ANWR? Now do you get it?

We’ve always been at war with Eastasia? It makes me want to laugh until I think about the power that this person could potentially wield. Then it scares the hell out of me.

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The “Something’s Wrong With Your Math” Act

Rep. Alan Grayson introduced the “War Is Making You Poor Act” on Friday:

The upshot is that he claims the extra $159 billion (on top of the already committed $549 billion) to be spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan isn’t necessary, and should instead be used to pay the income tax on the first $35,000 of income for every taxpayer in the country. As a supporting argument, he shows how current U.S. military spending is about the same as the rest of the world’s military spending combined.

Something’s wrong with his math, though. $159 billion is on the order of $1,000 for each taxpayer in the United States. How does that pay for the taxes on $35,000 of income? Most of that money falls into the 10% and 15% federal tax brackets, so even with a pretty hefty deduction, I’m guessing most people pay at least two or three times that $1,000 on their first $35,000 of income. The deduction wouldn’t even apply for people whose adjusted gross income is over $35,000.

Although those making less than $35,000 pay less in taxes, obviously, is it really enough to make up the difference? Rep. Grayson claims about one third of Americans earn less than $35,000, which overlaps significantly with the 38% with no income tax liability. So that leaves us with about $1,500 per taxpayer — still off by at least a factor of two.

Something just doesn’t add up here, and while I agree with both the sentiment (why do we need to spend as much on military as the rest of the planet combined?) and the general idea of a small tax break for middle-income workers, I’m left with a sour taste in my mouth because politicians invariably twist the numbers to suit their purposes. “We pay your taxes on $35,000″ certainly sounds a lot more impressive than “about $1,500 per taxpayer”, even if it does somehow add up. Not to mention Grayson’s emotional appeal to the third of taxpayers making less than $35,000, who wouldn’t even benefit from it, since they have little or no tax liability.

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A Totally Gay Math Problem

In the wake of Maine rejecting same-sex marriage, here’s a math problem for you:

Given a 53% to 47% split, and the fact that, statistically speaking, the older you are, the more likely you are to be bigoted*, how long will it take before same-sex marriage remains legal (or, at least, is popularly supported**) in Maine?

You are given the following statistics:

  • Annual birth rate: 1.16% (this varies, but assume that the population grows by this value each year)
  • Annual death rate: 0.93% (source: Maine Vital Statistics)
  • In Maine, the portion of the population that supports gay marriage by age:
    • 18-29: 69%
    • 30-44: 55%
    • 45-64: 47%
    • 65+: 30% (source: Columbia University. You can assume these rates remain constant, even though they are likely to increase as the population ages)
  • Distribution of deaths within the same age groups:
    • 18-29: 2% (extrapolated — data provided only in 5-year ranges)
    • 30-44: 4%
    • 45-64: 19%
    • 65+: 73% (source: CDC; I did the summation myself. These values are for the whole country, and are more recent than the birth and death rates for Maine, but for the purposes of this problem, assume Maine has a similar rate.)

Update: It has been pointed out that I have neglected to provide the current population distribution. Sorry, you’re right! I was trying too hard to make a point, and wasn’t being careful enough to provide sufficient information. I’m a little ashamed. Here:

  • Assume this current population distribution, by age range:
    • 18-29: 21%
    • 30-44: 21%
    • 45-64: 21% (Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any source for this that gave finer granularity than “19-64″, so these are a rough estimate at best, but I think they should be good enough for our purposes. Let me know if you find something better.)
    • 65+: 16% (source:

In which year will more than 50% of Maine’s population support same-sex marriage? Show your work!

*Bigoted, for the purposes of this problem, means “not in support of same-sex marriage”. You may disagree with this definition, but you’d be wrong. Sorry. I realize that much of my own family falls under that umbrella. This seems to indicate that otherwise decent people can still be bigoted.

**Strictly speaking, this sort of thing shouldn’t be determined by a vote anyway. See the Tyranny of the Majority.

Update 2: This post has been making the rounds, and a common theme among comments seems to be that there are many more factors that influence this: changing age distribution due to people retiring to Maine/younger people leaving, increasing conservatism with age, higher voting rates among the elderly, etc. All of this is true, but it doesn’t matter.

The point is not really to predict the exact date when gay marriage will be popularly supported. It’s that the date, whenever it comes, is inevitable. In the meantime, all I can do is remind us all that the times, once again, are changing. As a straight man, it baffles me that so many people feel so threatened by this. I will not change my mind as I grow older, and I believe enough of my contemporaries feel the same way to feel comfortable making this claim.


If only we could get separate water fountains, too

California voters approve gay-marriage ban, along with Florida and Arizona.

Phew, good thing my marriage is no longer under attack.

May the generations to come look back on us and be ashamed.

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Disgusting Safeway Milk Coolers

(click for larger version)

I’d always thought that our local Safeway (Rivermark Plaza in Santa Clara, actually a fairly “nice” area) was pretty lax in keeping their milk coolers clean, because of the vile smell of rotten milk when opening the doors. It’s a little hard to see in the BlackBerry photo, but there are several layers (in a few different colors) of congealed milk built up on the shelves — I don’t think these shelves have ever been wiped down. Somehow I never noticed this at Wegman’s.


Sarah Palin’s Speech

“Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America … he’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights? ” – Sarah Palin

“Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety deserve neither Liberty nor Safety” – Benjamin Franklin

I’ve kind of stayed away from politics here in the past. Heck, I’ve kind of stayed away from posting at all. But sometimes I just can’t keep quiet. This fear mongering scares the hell out of me, although not in the way she apparently intended. What scares me is that people think this is OK.


I Was a Child Star

Brian finally got around to posting his old film projects on YouTube. This is the both beginning and end of my glamorous (if not exactly lucrative) acting career:

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You Don’t Know What It’s Like to be Me

So you want to know what it’s like to be Distracto?

As I was preparing for work this morning, I entered the bathroom to get my deodorant. As I started to reach into the medicine cabinet, a thought struck me. I don’t remember what it was.

Halfway through flossing my teeth, I said to myself, “Hey. I don’t floss my teeth in the morning!” I finished flossing, brushed my teeth for good measure, then put some deodorant on. I had to repeat, “Get deodorant. Get deodorant,” to myself until I finished in order to avoid the very real danger of stuffing Q-tips into my ears, forgetting about them, and coming to work looking like an antenna. A smelly antenna that doesn’t wear deodorant.

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me instanceof Googler

(I was going to title this “me == Googler”, but I figured that kind of code would never fly at Google.)

Yup, this is the exciting news I hinted at last time! As of September 17, I am joining the ranks of software engineers at Google. To say I’m excited would be an understatement. I can’t wait to work with some of the most talented programmers in the world, at a company for which, let’s face it, some people would saw off a leg if it would help get their (remaining) foot in the door.

The interview process was as difficult as is rumored, although perhaps not as lengthy: I had one phone and four in-person interviews. The interview questions mostly boiled down to things like choosing efficient data structures and algorithms to solve a particular problem (then describing how they work, then writing the code on the whiteboard, etc.). There were no “brain teaser” questions, and very little drilling of specific knowledge about Java (for example). I’m sure a good deal of that was thanks to my particular interviewers, who did a pretty good job overall conducting the interviews.

I had a job offer within a couple weeks after the in-person interviews. I get the feeling, based on comparing my experience to those that I’ve read or heard about, that Google has been working hard to streamline and standardize their hiring processes, which is nice.

I’ll try to write a little more about my Google recruiting and interviewing experience, which was quite positive, after I’ve started and have had the chance to understand Google’s position and/or policies on employees blogging.

However, before that happens, there are still a slew of difficult and/or tedious things that Kristen and I have to get done, almost all centered around moving, for the second time in three years, to the San Francisco Bay area. We’re currently on a flight back from SFO, where we managed to find an apartment that both accepts our two Siberian Huskies, and provides a reasonable environment for the dogs.

We still have to arrange details with movers, decide what goes and what stays (we’re keeping our house in New York), and prepare for a drive across the country with two dogs, one of whom gets carsick on a two-hour ride. I have to figure out how to sell a 125 gallon reef aquarium that weighs over a thousand pounds, try to get grass planted in our recently renovated back yard, and fix a million little things around the house, all before we go.

We’re also entering the final weeks at our current jobs, mine with a company that I’ve had a great relationship with for eight years, and Kristen at a relatively new job that she loves and hates to leave. You don’t have to tell me how amazing my wife is; I already know.

I’ll keep the blog updated as we progress, and maybe get the chance to provide some insight into what it’s like working at the number one company in the US to work for. I’ve already had the chance to sample a couple of the famous free lunches, but there are bound to be a few other things to talk about ;) .

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Up and Running with WordPress

Welcome to the all new Distracto, now running WordPress! My old Movable Type installation had been broken for a while, and I’ve been really growing to like WordPress recently. I’d also been meaning to switch Distracto’s web host for a while, so I took the opportunity to get it all done at once. Phew!

I managed to get all of the old entries imported into WordPress, and made sure all the old permalinks still work, so there shouldn’t be any noticeable differences, other than the slightly modified design.

Having a working blog platform again will mean some (slightly) more regular updates. In fact, there might be some exciting news in the next week or two. Stay tuned. ;)

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